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In the USA, the topic of product reviews is currently being turned completely on its head - now the summary

The Amazon FBA landscape is changing at breakneck speed. Much faster than we could have ever guessed. And there's no slowdown in sight. One of the topics undergoing the most extreme change right now is definitely Amazon's rating system. As always, Amazon seller forums and Facebook groups are full of speculation and questions about what exactly is going on in terms of rating changes. The most adventurous stories around valuation removals persist on social media. But only a few actually have an overview of what is really being carried out on the American Amazon marketplace right now.

We've noticed four big changes over the past few weeks, which we've summarized for you below:

Change 1: The great valuation distance

You've probably heard of brands or products where Amazon has removed reviews in the last month or two. But who exactly was affected? And to what extent were reviews removed?

Research during the period 5/1/2018 - 5/31/2018 shows that, the following five categories, were most affected by review removal: Cell Phones & Accessories (324,423 deleted reviews), Health & Household (305,777), Grocery & Gourmet Food (204,553), Beauty & Personal Care (193,242), Toolas & Home Improvement (177,375).

It becomes clear that this is not a myth, but that Amazon has actually removed reviews. For affected sellers, the loss of reviews naturally means a drastic impact on product popularity. Listings can lose credibility, which in turn negatively impacts future sales. Reasons for the removal are changes in Amazon's policies. Reviews will be monitored more strictly in the future and removed if necessary.

Change 2: Blocking assessments

The biggest outcry in the U.S. in recent months has been the announcement of blocked reviews. In concrete terms, this means that Amazon has limited the number of possible reviews per day. According to research by an American Amazon agency, three unverified reviews per day per product (in May) led to further unverified reviews for that item being blocked. The same was true for verified reviews: After six to eight verified reviews per day, the ASIN was blocked from further verified reviews. Such a rating freeze applied for one to three days in May. Since mid-June, however, a relaxation of these values has been observed. In most categories, more ratings are possible again and the period during which no ratings could be submitted has also been reduced.

Nevertheless, the valuation freeze remains in place, albeit in a relaxed form.

Change 3: Allocation of valuations to variants

The way ratings are attributed to variants has also changed in the US. A few months ago, if you had a listing with variants, the ratings of individual variants were visible with each variant. Star ratings were aggregated and displayed collectively on all variants.

Not so in the new world of Amazon reviews! Instead of applying a review for one variant to the entire offer, it is now only displayed on the specific variant. As an example, you offer different colored mugs. If a review is submitted for a red cup, this review will also be displayed only for the red variant. This in turn means that variants for which no rating has been submitted will also be displayed without a rating.

Thus, it is important to ensure that all variants are of the highest quality, which can prevent extremely different ratings from causing lasting damage to the listing.

Change 4: Seller ratings are lost at the expense of a 12 month system

Some sellers in the US are affected by only showing seller reviews from the last 12 months. Reviews that were submitted before that have been removed by Amazon. So if some worse reviews have arrived in the last 12 months, they will be much more noticeable as all previous seller reviews will be disregarded.

This change does not apply to all sellers yet. Nevertheless, it must be kept in mind that older (> 12 months) seller ratings must not be relied upon. A unique customer experience must be created with each individual product and order.

What must be observed?

As already described in the opening section, Amazon is constantly evolving. Even the changes mentioned above are not set in stone. Quite the opposite: There is a lot going on here and Amazon is integrating various updates and testing effects bit by bit.

This means that the changes listed may already be abolished or further optimized in the coming weeks. Amazon USA is currently going through an extremely dynamic and partly chaotic process. Deriving a stable Amazon rating strategy from this is still proving to be very problematic at the moment. What is certain, however, is that requests to generate ratings must be "well-worded", i.e. well thought out and formulated in accordance with the rules, in order to avoid penalties. What we strongly advise against is membership in so-called review groups. In the USA, some sellers were removed from the marketplace because they sold products by default via secret Facebook groups, received reviews and subsequently refunded purchase prices via Paypal.

All of the above changes could currently only be determined in the USA. It remains to be seen how and whether these will also be adopted for Amazon DE.

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